While every church has its own names for the three main types of small group connecting events (I’ll also tell you about a twist that I’ve found interesting and effective), there are certain key distinctives that set them apart. I think it’s important to make these distinctions because sometimes people will tell me they’ve already tried a strategy, but when I poke around I realize that they’ve tried a version of it, but not the real version. That’s very important to understand.
Here are what I’ve found the three types of events to be:
- Small Group Connection: Developed at Saddleback, the essence of the small group connection idea is that unconnected people who want to join a group are invited to attend an event where groups will be formed. A sorting process is used to group participants by affinity (life-stage, geography, meeting availability, etc.). The process of the event itself helps identify leaders within each of the groups formed. The main distinctive is that the connection process identifies leaders (where you previously had not identified them). You can read more about how to do a small group connection right here.
- GroupLink: Developed at North Point, Group Link is primarily an opportunity for unconnected people to connect with pre-qualified leaders. While there are some similarities between Group Link and the small group connection, the main distinctive is that pre-qualified leaders are available and play an important part. You can read a little more about Group Link right here. You can order Group Link materials from North Point right here.
- Small Group Fair: many churches hold a small group fair inviting many or all of their small groups to host a table or booth advertise or promote their group. Unconnected people looking for a group are invited to “stop by the tables, talk with the leaders or members and see if they can find a good match.” Described in the book Dog Training, Fly Fishing and Sharing Christ in the 21st Century, the main distincitive of a small group fair is that existing groups are given an opportunity to market themselves in a fun environment. It’s important to remember that this method adds members to existing groups.
A twist on the small group connection strategy that I’ve found to work very well is what I call a Book Study. I run it like a connection. The main distinctive of this event is that leaders emerge over the course of the first few weeks. Here’s the gist of the way it works:
- We advertise the study (we’ve done studies like The Measure of a Man and Bad Girls of the Bible).
- On the first day of the study we sort everyone out into tables of 6 to 8 people and then give them a few discussion questions to get them through the first night. Then we give them their homework assignment (read the chapter). We also have them jot down the name and phone number of the person on their right and commit to call that person during the week. And then we say goodnight.
- The next week they show up and we seat them at the same tables as the previous week. After a very brief opener, we release them to discus the questions at the end of the first chapter. In almost every case, a natural leader emerges during the second meeting. At the end of the meeting, we give them their homework assignment for the next week. We have them jot down the name and number of the person on their left, committing to call midweek. And we say goodnight.
- Two years in a row we’ve had them meet on-campus for the first 4 to 5 weeks and then off-campus for the last 2 to 3. The best part? Many of the groups are still meeting a year later.
Want do you think? Have one to add? Want to argue? You can click here to jump into the conversation.